Dutch band Epica surely needs no introduction. Even people unfamiliar with the band have an idea of how they sound based on their name alone. Since the turn of the century, Epica has been creating a unique metal sound that incorporates symphonic instrumentation mixed with way too many metal subgenres to name. On their newest release, The Solace System, are six tracks ready to prove that fact.
As expected, the band’s two vocalists feature prominently on the EP, with Simone Simons carrying the melodies in the spotlight, while Mark Jansen’s gritty vocals add some edge to the pounding instrumentals. A call-and-response dynamic is prominent in a couple of tracks, intertwining the two extremes rather seamlessly. Musically, the production is great. The band’s instruments are heavy, full, and are definitely up to that modern metal standard.
Although the music’s symphonic elements do a good job of accenting certain notes in any given riff, as heard in “Fight Your Demons,” I often find them too busy, over-crowding the mix. They shine best when the instrumentation behind them is simplified, like in “Immortal Melancholy.” A simple vocal and acoustic guitar arrangement leaves a ton of room for the symphonic instrumentation to grow and take on its own personality, adding its own classical meets medieval sound to the song.
On the other hand, tunes like “Wheel Of Destiny” add some punch and variety to the overall track listing. It’s a great track whose accents are once again highlighted by symphonic instruments. The intro riff is a touch too similar to Testament’s “Brotherhood Of The Snake,” from the album of the same name which was released last year, but I’m sure Testament isn’t the first band to write that riff, either.
All in all, there’s some beautiful instrumentation featured on The Solace System. I would have loved for those symphonic elements to have more of an emotional role in the music like they do in “Immortal Melancholy,” rather than fighting the blaring instruments to sneak in additional melodic elements. Granted, it’s the only song not featuring any electric instruments, so a good chunk of the band’s music is subject to a never-ending battle of trying to strike that balance. I’m sure Epica can pull it off, and I look forward to hearing it in their future work.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
*edited by Kate Erickson